Our game against Thailand is very, very important. It’s the biggest game of the year for us --- Philippine Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley
The Philippine Azkals will go all out to make history on Saturday against a formidable Thai side in the first of two home-and-away games of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Head coach Thomas Dooley sees the match as a chance for the Filipino booters to redeem themselves from more than four decades of futility against the Southeast Asian powerhouse.
“Our game against Thailand is very, very important. It’s the biggest game of the year for us,” said Dooley of the match that will start at 8:00 in the evening.
“I think the last time we beat Thailand was in 1971 so it has been 14 games that we lost against them,” he added. “It’s about time to write some history.”
But more importantly, Dooley looks at the match as a pivotal moment in their campaign to barge in the Cup championship after falling short in their last two attempts.
“It’s very important for us because it’s the first game in the semifinals. We have to win at home to ease out the pressure when we travel to Thailand for the second leg,” said the former USA team captain to two World Cup stints. “It is the third time that we reached the semifinals and we would like to go to the finals. It’s a very difficult task but anything can happen.”
Malaysia is in the other half of the semis against Vietnam.
Dooley, who replaced German coach Hans Michael Weiss early this year, and the Azkals won their last game at Rizal against Cambodia last November 14 before embarking on their Suzuki Cup campaign,
The Azkals will play without Fil-Spanish center-back defender Juani Guirado due to pulled hamstring injury while Filipino-German midfielder Patrick Reichelt is doubtful to be 100 percent healthy come game time.
“We have two injured players. One is Patrick Reichelt, he had a knee injury. It looks OK, he might be available on Saturday but it’s like 50-50,” he said. “Juani, he pulled his hamstring and his out for three weeks I guess. I don’t know if he ever comes back in this tournament.”
But the Azkals will be reinforced by Fil-German Roland Muller after the goal keeper was booked with a red card in his Swiss club team Servette FC’s last game.
“He got a red card last week in the game so that means he’s out for the last game of the season in Switzerland,” Dooley explained. “We are trying to get him back as soon as possible. He’ll be able to be here on Wednesday or Thursday.”